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Photo: Microsoft

Javier Soltero, who rose to a top role on the Office team after selling his startup to Microsoft, is taking on a big new challenge, Axios has learned. He's about three weeks into a new job as the corporate VP overseeing Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant.

The big challenge: Cortana, though omnipresent on the Xbox and Windows 10, has only limited use outside of Microsoft hardware and therefore gets far less attention, from both developers and consumers, than assistants from Amazon, Google and Apple.

"It's exciting It's challenging," Soltero told Axios. "It's candidly not what I expected would happen."

Soltero will report to Harry Shum, Microsoft's head of AI and research, as will Andrew Shuman, another corporate VP who runs Cortana's engineering.

What drew him? Soltero said that as an entrepreneur at heart, he knew if he stayed at Microsoft he wanted to work on something that only a big company could solve. And voice intrigued him.

"If I was to leave Microsoft and start another company I would be doing something related to voice," Soltero said.

A matter of trust: Making Cortana more useful will take work, but Soltero says it's not just about which assistant can perform more skills. "The real contest is about which company users will choose and entrust with essentially all of they information or the majority of their information."

One of Microsoft's big differentiators so far has been around privacy, particularly the ability to see and even edit what it is Cortana knows abut you. The challenge is that privacy alone tends to be a tough sell in tech. "A very private but mediocre experience will not win," he said,

Go deeper

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

Cedric Richmond: We won't wait on GOP for "insufficient" stimulus

Top Biden adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" the White House believes it has bipartisan support for a stimulus bill outside the Beltway.

  • "If our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we are not going to do that."

The big picture: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the Senate after House Democrats narrowly passed a stimulus bill this weekend, reports Axios' Kadia Goba.

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Cuomo asks for “independent” investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he would authorize and "voluntarily cooperate" with an independent investigation run by New York's attorney general into claims he sexually harassed several women.

The state of play: The statement comes after a day of competing statements from Cuomo and AG Letitcia James over who would oversee an independent investigation into the governor.